Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Legendary Star-Lord Vol. 2: Rise of The Black Vortex

The second and final volume of Marvel's Legendary Star-Lord is a particularly patchwork affair. The short-lived, 12-issue series ends presumably prematurely in order to accommodate the publisher's Secret Wars plans, as just about every book Marvel was publishing ends just before or during Secret Wars, to be relaunched afterwards or not–Star-Lord gets relaunched with a new #1, new artist and the same writer in November. Unfortunately for any readers who might have been enjoying this "ongoing" Star-Lord solo series, it ends not with a bang, but a cacophony, whatever story writer Sam Humphries was trying to tell getting badly muddled as an inter-book crossover devoured the latter half of this series.

Of the seven issues collected in Rise, three of them are non-consecutive chapters of the 13-part "Black Vortex" story that ran through Star-Lord, Guardians Team-Up, Cyclops, Guardians of the Galaxy, All-New X-Men, Nova, Captain Marvel and a pair of one-shot specials. To break down the contents of this collection, then, we have Star-Lord #6-#12; that's three issues of Star-Lord telling Star-Lord stories, then part 3 of "Black Vortex," followed by part 9 of "Black Vortex," followed by part 12 of "Black Vortex," and then the final, Star-Lord-less issue of Star-Lord, a sort of epilogue involving at least two minor characters from the book.

It's not so much the "Rise" of the Black Vortex as it is the rise of the Black Vortex, followed by three random chunks of Black Vortex, followed by the aftermath of the Black Vortex. Were one to attempt to read this collection straight through, it would fall apart into complete gobbledygook in the middle. I started to read it, then stopped halfway through to go read Marvel's collection of Guardianss of The Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex, which actually includes the whole storyline, and then came back to read the last chapter of Star-Lord Vol. 2. It's such a terribly assembled collection that I can't imagine what Marvel was thinking by even bothering publishing it like this; I suppose the thought was simply that without including the "Black Vortex" chapters, as unreadable as they may be isolated from the rest of the story, there just wouldn't be enough pages to fill up a trade. Usually their random filler material makes more sense than this though; couldn't they have just thrown in a "classic" Star-Lord story or two at the end, or something...?

That out of the way, we'll simply ignore the chunk of the collection that collects the out-of-context chapters of "Black Vortex" (I'll be writing about that next, anyway). The first few issues focus on Peter "Star-Lord" Quill's blossoming relationship with Kitty Pryde of the X-Men, who he met during an earlier X-Men/Guardians team-up story arc (Brian Michael Bendis' The Trial of Jean Grey; Bendis really likes Kitty Pryde, apparently). The two have been carrying on a kinda sorta extremely long-distance relationship, via some sort of hologram phone.

In the first issue of the collection, they are going on some sort of hologram date, with Peter taking a hologram of Kitty around his home planet Spartax on a date. I'm not sure how this works, mechanically, as in the past they were stationary when communicating; here he tries to take her out to dinner, and the space-opera, and dancing and so forth. Quill is being pursued by the colorfully-named Slaughter Squad, super-mercenaries hired by Mister Knife to capture him. He tries to hide these attacks from his superhero girlfriend, with disastrous results. Sam Humphries writes the whole issue like a comedy, albeit a not terribly funny, sitcom-in-space brand of comedy.

It ends with Peter being kidnapped by Mister Knife, who reveals himself to be...Peter's dad, deposed emperor of Spartax, J-Son! Kitty, seeing the capture via hologram, decides to go rescue her boyfriend in a stolen Avengers spaceship, with only Lockheed to accompany her. Yes, she may teach a team of superheroes, she may have deep connections to the veritable army of superheroes that is The X-Men, and yes, her friend Lockheed might work for an organization specifically devoted to dealing with space stuff (and her other friend Beast may be dating the head of that organization) but, she decides to go solo, evening ignoring the hails of Iron Man Tony Stark, a high muckety-muck in the Avengers who was also a member of the Guardians with Peter for a while.

I guess this was more dramatic...?

In the next issues, Kitty saves Peter, briefly meets his father and the pair retire to an orphanage that Peter helps fund for more old-school, network television-esque scenes (but in space!). After the pair come to terms with their crazy lives and have some sex, Kitty convinces Peter that she wants to do "something bad"; specifically, steal The Black Vortex from J-Son.

Now, they don't know what the Black Vortex is at this point, only that it's valuable to J-Son. What is it? It's a magic mirror that, if you look into it and "submit" to it (basically by saying "I submit" or agreeing to it or whatever), it gives you a terrible costume re-design, ups your power levels and maybe also kinda sorta corrupts you in a vague, never-defined way.

The actual heist takes place elsewhere, and here we get the three random chapters of "Black Vortex." So this is the point where a reader presumably stops reading this collection and goes off to read the aforementioned Black Vortex collection. If you do try to read, what you'll see is The Guardians, The All-New X-Men, some random X-Men (Storm, Beast and Magik), some Starjammers, Nova, Thanos' son Thane, Mister Knife, The Slaughter Lords and The Brood all arguing over and fighting over a big magic mirror for sixty pages. But, remember, these aren't consecutive chapters, and they don't specifically focus on Star-Lord, even though those chapters may fall in his book. I guess it would be a little like watching a movie on DVD, and you skip ahead to the third scene, watch that, skip three more, watch another, skip three more, watch one more scene and then stop watching the movie.

In the final chapter, Star-Lord doesn't appear at all. He can't, really, as it would ruin his big moment at the end of "Black Vortex," probably one of the biggest moments in the character's fictional life up until this point. So instead it features his half-sister Victoria visiting The Collector, who now looks just like he did in the Guardians movie, and bargaining with him to retrieve the body of J-Son, who kinda sorta died at the end of "Black Vortex" (which you wouldn't know from reading this book). Actually, he just gets encased in super-amber by Thane, son of Thanos, so he's only "dead" in the sense that, say, Han Solo was at between the end of Empire and the second act of Jedi was dead, or Wolverine is in the pre-Secret Wars Marvel Universe is dead.

She does this by dancing so well that she makes The Collector cry, and he collects the single tear he sheds (That's actually my favorite part of the issue...maybe because it's the only really good part of it).

Artists Freddie Williams II, Paco Diaz, Andrea Sorrentino and Paco Medina (with inker Juan Vlasco) draw this damn thing, and they all do a fine job. That's a lot of different artists, really, but they are all well within the same or at least similar aesthetic ballparks (Sorrentino sticks out, but is employed in such a way that it doesn't matter). The fact that almost half of the book isn't meant to be read anyway further distracts from the change in artists.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Batman vs. Tiger Vs. Batgirl vs. Tiger

The latest issue of Batgirl featured a fight scene in which Batgirl Barbara Gordon fought a tiger hand-to-hand and, as I noted the other day, it didn't feel quite right to me, even allowing for the fact that the scene took place in a superhero comic book.

What bothered me about it the most was the fact that Barbara Gordon is pretty small. I don't know how tall she is or how much she weighs, but artist Babs Tarr and others generally draw her as small-ish; she's certainly under six-feet-tall, and I would guess she weighed somewhere between 100-135 pounds. Tigers, on the other hand, are really fucking big, and really fucking strong. The writers don't give us the stats on this particular tiger, but tigers can weigh anywhere from 200-600 pounds, and Tarr draws this one as obviously bigger than Babs.

Now, that doesn't mean Batgirl couldn't take a tiger in a fight, of course, but I was thoroughly unconvinced by the way in which she defeated the tiger. She goes a round with it using pure brute strength (not terribly convincing), and then tricks it into a locked room (convincing).

Perhaps the creators of the issue were trying to spend as little time as possible on the fight, or perhaps their was miscommunication between writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and Tarr in terms of fight choreography. But here, again, is how that fight went down.

A tiger is loose in an office building after dark, stalks an computer programmer, and then pounces at its fleeing victim. Batgirl tackles it mid-leap (see above). This is the very next page:
It looks like Batgirl grabs the tiger out of the air, keeps her balance while landing and supporting its considerable weight, holds it while she gets into proper position and then throws it. Or, in other words, Batgirl catches a leaping tiger out of the air and tosses it aside. It's not like Barbara Gordon is Sheena.

The sequence might be meant to be read as Batgirl intercepting the tiger and knocking it off balance, shifting her position mid-air at incredible speed to get under it, and then using the tiger's own weight and momentum to throw it, using some kind of super-fast gymnastic judo move. That's not precisely how it's drawn, though. It looks more like she just girl-handled a tiger.

As for the rest of the fight, after it bats Batgirl away and resumes stalking it's prey, she yells "Hey, Frosty Flakes!" ("Frosty Flakes" being the Earth-0 equivalent of Earth-33's Frosted Flakes), and when the tiger rushes at her, she flips over it and it charges into an empty conference room, which Batgirl proceeds to lock it in.

I think a large part of the reason the scene bugged me was I so vividly recalled a scene in which another Bat-person fought another tiger, and I recall it being much more difficult for that Bat-person, despite his being bigger, stronger and a more experienced fighter of jungle-cats. I am referring, of course, to Batman, and this comparison gives me a good excuse to write at some length about 1990's Detective Comics #612 by Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle and Steve Mitchell (with Adrienne Roy coloring and Todd Klein lettering), one of my favorite comics from one of my favorite runs by one of my favorite creative teams.

It's a very dense–one could even argue too dense–story in which Grant riffs on cats in a wide array of ways for 22 pages, the length of the entire, one-issue story. Batman thwarts some purse snatchers in front of an Alice's Adventures In Wonderland-inspired statue in Robinson Park (note the Cheshire Cat), and then finds a mangled and partially-eaten body in the bushes. Apparently, a giant cat is on the loose.

It is a 600-pound Siberian tiger named Rasputin, a pet of Thomas Blake, aka Catman, that has escaped from his estate. Catman was, in 1990, a rather obscure Batman villain that Grant apparently took a liking to. This is the first of at least three Catman stories Grant wrote (including "The Misfits" in Shadow of The Bat and "The Secret of the Universe" in a three-part Shadow of The Bat/Catwoman crossover). Breyfogle gave the character a striking costume design that I liked and like a whole lot; it's my favorite of all his costumes, although it would be greatly altered when writer Gail Simone started using the character as a regular in her Secret Six comics, at which point the character reached probably his highest Q-rating in the DC Universe.

Anyway, there's a tiger loose in Gotham City, Catman is looking for it, Catwoman is being accused of the mauling by a sensationalistic media, a pair of kids are driving around town in a van marked "Shrodinger Delivery" capturing alley cats in butterfly nets to sell to a lab for ten bucks a cat (while exchanging cat trivia in the course of their conversation) and Rasputin's next victim is, of course, a cat burglar. The attack takes place–where else?–but the Hottin Roofing Company.

Batman arrives on the scene as the cat is dragging the burglar's unconscious body away, and he interrupts it by swinging into its midsection (that's the panel at the top of the post, in which Breyfogle draws the force of the kick shattering the panel; not that, despite how powerful Batman and his kick look in that panel, the tiger looks merely irritated, and is only moved a few inches by the blow).

Upon discovering that the crook is already dead, Batman dodges the tiger using his rope, planning to avoid its claws while working up enough momentum to try kicking it again, when Rasputin's master Catman arrives, slicing the Bat-rope with a Catarang and knocking Batman out cold.

When he awakes, he finds himself forced into a fight against Rasputin.

Good thing this fight was taking place in 1990, instead of today; otherwise, Batman wouldn't have a TV aerial to use as leverage and/or a weapon!

While Batman and Rasputin are fighting, Catwoman arrives on the scene, and notices Catwoman. "I might have known if there was trouble, that chump would be involved," she thinks, and then takes Catman out of the fight without saying a word to anyone.

Batman realizes he can't fend off a tiger for much longer, as he's torn up, dripping blood and ready to drop while the cat is unfazed, so he decides on daring, drastic, awesome action:

He doesn't simply try to break it the way a cowboy might a mustang, though; instead, he uses the Bat-rope to try and choke it into unconsciousness:
I don't suppose it will surprise you to learn that Batman manages to successfully do so, and does not, in fact, end up being killed and eaten by a tiger in 'TEC # 612. The tiger, likewise, survives, and is left tied-up for the police. Catman landed atop the van collecting alley cats, Catwoman managed to clear her name in the media and they all lived happily ever after.

Of the two Gotham City tiger fights that I can think of at the moment, the one in 'TEC is by far my favorite, and the more realistic of the two, at least in terms of depicting how hard it is for people to fight tigers (Batman riding a tiger, even if only for a panel or two, probably doesn't seem all that "realistic" to many readers though, huh?).

Which isn't to say that issue of Batgirl was a bad one, or to impugn the abilities of Tarr (one of my favorite artists currently drawing for DC Comics at the moment), or writers Fletcher and Stewart. It's just one poorer-than-it-should-have-been (I would have just had Batgirl shoulder or kick the pouncing tiger down, and then skip ahead to the luring/flipping/trapping sequence). And holding almost any Batman artist to Breyfogle's standard when it comes to drawing action scenes almost seems unfair. He's one of, if not the, best artists to ever draw Batman in action, as the panels above should make fairly clear (even if the pages they're printed on are now yellowed).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Teen Titans Go #11: Perfect cover, okay comic

I don't regularly read the Teen Titans Go comic book. Not because I don't like Teen Titans Go the TV show or anything; I actually kind of love it, and it's one of my favorite things on television. No, I don't normally read it because the specific charms of the show don't generally translate into the silent, static media of comics well. That said,  this issue sold itself to me on its cover alone.

I'm not a poster guy, and I don't make enough money to consider collecting original art or anything any more, but I would frame and hang a poster of that image on my wall. I'd consider dropping a $150 or so on the original art behind that masterpiece (drawn by Teen Titans Go designer Dan Hipp).

It kinda sorta refers to the story that fills the first half of this particular issue, in which Cyborg attempts to grow a mustache and it immediately gains sentience and tries to take over his body.

Raven is immediately opposed to the idea of facial hair on Cyborg, pointing out that facial hair is a villain thing. And...damn, she's right.

Trying to to think of superheroes with facial hair of any kind, I found the list to be extremely short. DC's Green Arrow (who has been clean shaven for about four years now) is probably the DC hero who has facial hair the longest. Beyond that, the list gets really short. Uncle Sam, if he counts as a DC hero? Warlord? Aquaman went through a beard phase, but that's all it was, really a phase.

Meanwhile at Marvel, Iron Man Tony Stark has always rocked at least a mustache, but he's not exactly the paragon of heroics, is he? In fact, for a few years there he was the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe, and generally deals with moral relativism. Hell, he just went through another evil phase in the pages of the short-lived Superior Iron Man series.

The other mustachioed Marvel is, of course, Doctor Strange, who has spent most of his career on the side of the angels, but can occasionally be something of a douchebag (particularly back when he was a surgeon) and has turned to the dark side a few times.

Anti-hero Wolverine has some severe side-burns, Thor had a  beard phase and...that's all I can think of among the Marvels.

But you don't have to have visible facial hair like Slade Wilson, Deadshot, The Mandarin or The Leader to be a bad guy. As Robin points out, the 100% completely bald, facial hair-free Lex Luthor is a villain, but Raven has an explanation for that too; a bald man, I would object, but then I am a bald man with a bear, so I've already been maligned by this comic book.

Cyborg's mustache, which quickly grows into a beard with its own mustache and big, bushy eyebrows, obviously doesn't agree. He/It offers a list of the many things men and their beards can do together and...hey, those all sound pretty lame. I don't do any of those things. I would be a lumberjack (I mean, I like pancakes and flannel shirts), but it sounds like way too much physical labor, and I'd feel bad cutting down trees.

Man, why do I have a beard? Oh right, I don't like shaving my chin. Anyway, Teen Titans Go #11: It's mustachtacular!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: August 26

Batgirl #43 (DC Comics) Given how crazy the worlds of superhero comics can be, even those featuring the more "realistic" characters like Batgirl–who, you will recall, spent the last two issues teaming up with her robot battlesuit-wearing father to fight a woman made out of lightning–whenever I see something that I just can't believe and thinking "bullshit" in my head, it is, of course, immediately followed by a little voice in my head questioning why I'm questioning that. "You're okay with the girl who dresses like a bat to fight supervillains, but not this, Caleb? Really?"

I had one of those moments in this issue of Batgirl. Someone has apparently been letting tigers loose in Burnside-area tech firms to kill employees working too late, and Batgirl stops one of the tigers by tackling it, holding it aloft for at least a second and then bodyslamming it.
As artist Babs Tarr's work makes clear, tigers are very, very big; much bigger than Batgirl. According to Wikipedia, there are a half-dozen different species of tiger, and assuming these weren't one of the smallest two–and the tiger she fights is obviously not–then if she were bodyslamming the smallest possible female from any of the other four remaining species, that's still a 200-pound animal.

But man, look at the size of that thing; I don't think Batman could manhandle it like Batgirl does there. And then she gets swatted by it and doesn't die.

Sorry Batgirl, I had issues with this scene. Between the mystery of the maulings, Babs is trying to help Alysia plan her wedding to an animal activist and trying to keep her partner Frankie, who has been acting as Oracle to her Black Canary, off the streets.

Who's behind the tiger attacks? She's shown in a last page reveal, and named in the "Next Issue" text: "Next: THe Velvet Tiger!" That is literally the only Batgirl villain I can think of, so I am honestly surprised she hasn't appeared in Birds of Prey or any issue of any of the three previous volumes of Batgirl comics before.

While I had some difficulty in believing in Barbara Gordon's ability to beat up tigers, Tarr's art more than made up for that. My favorite bits? Definitely the reveal of how she stashes her Batcycle when she parks it...
...and the scene at the end where Frankie bandages up her tiger claw wound.
In the case of the former, it's a neat idea, executed really well. I like the way Paul Pope's Batman: Year 100 Batman stashes his motorcycles better, because they looked cooler, but this was in the same vein.

As for the bandaged up scene, I like the way Tarr draws Batgirl sort of half-wearing her bra. Tarr really excels on making things look sexy, and realistic and sexier still because they are realistic all at the same time.

Batman '66 #26 (DC) Speaking of sexy, check out Mike Allred's Poison Ivy '66 on the cover of this month's issue. Jeez.

Now normally, I see Allred's awesome cover, and then feel at least a twinge of disappointment when I open it, and my eyes fall upon art that is quite clearly not that of Allred. I should be used to it by now–this is the twenty-sixth issue after all–but it still happens every month. This time, that disappointment did not last long at all, as the interior artist is one Jesse Hamm, and Hamm's style may not be an exact match to Allred's, but it isn't too too far removed, and I'll be damned if he doesn't draw sexy ladies as well as Allred does. His Poison Ivy is definitely the equal to Allred's.

Jeff Parker writes, as is usually the case, and he does a better-than-usual job, I think, introducing the '66 version of the villaness who never actually made it onto the show. Here she's the secret supplier of Louie The Lilac's various flowers and flora, and his apparent murderer, as the first page finds our heroes looking down on Louie's rigid corpse. ("Holy mortality!" Robin excalims; real professional there, kid.)

This Poison Ivy may look exactly like her comic book equivalent (or, at least, the most standard look the character has sported over the decades), but Parker and Hamm give her a swell plant arsenal, including some plant men she grows out of a pot (who are easy enough to imagine having appeared on the TV show), a Batman-eating Jupiter Fly Trap ("'Xause I need a way bigger planet than Venus for her name!" Ivy boasts) and a very cool looking giant tree ("a Costa Rican Walking Tree that actually walks," Batman observes)...the last of which definitely would not have, and could not have, appeared on the TV show.

In addition to the great, imaginative art and rejiggering of Ivy to make her fit the TV show's milieu (She also speaks with an almost Rogue-like southern accent), Parker manages to reference a certain Seal song from the Batman Forever soundtrack. Now, Ivy was in Batman and Robin, not Batman Forever, but I suppose when one sees an opportunity to have Batman '66 speak lyrics from a Batman movie soundtrack, one has to seize it.

Lumberjanes #17 (Boom Studios) Hey, what's going to happen when they publish enough issues that the entire back cover is filled up with merit badges? Will they keep shrinking the sizes of the badges to fit more on there, or...?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Marvel's November previews reviewed

Marvel Entertainment will have a couple of different variant themes come November, one of which has already been discussed at length all around the Interent (I had some thoughts here; it's worth noting that seeing some of the names attached to the hip-hop variants listed here, several are created by black folks, and at least one by Ed Piskor, who I believe is white, but who is also probably the comics creator who has done the most work on the subject of hip-hop, and is definitely the single most recognized cartoonist when it comes to the intersection of comics and hip-hop at the moment, so his tacit endorsement is probably a valuable one for Marvel, regardless of the color of his skin).

Another is these so-called "Cosplay Variants," which are...well, they're pretty weird, aren't they? They vary greatly in terms of quality of cosplay, and while that's a subject I know absolutely nothing about, I have to assume that what the publisher was going for was showing the wide variety of cosplay, essentially covering a spectrum of cosplay. Like the Ms. Marvel one at the top of the post is one of the better ones; that young lady looks a lot like Kamala Khan might in real life, and she and the costume look close enough that it's easy to imagine her appearing in a live-acction TV show or movie about Ms. Marvel (although her costume is unusually faithful; "Marvel Cinematic Universe" stuff generally tries to make the comics costumes look as different as possible when put to film, for reasons.) (Well, maybe the skirt is a little shorter and tighter than Kamala's.) I'm not sure why she's out in the woods though.

The higher-quality ones like this remind me of this Damage cover from way back in the day:

But then there are ones like this...
...or this...
I wish I knew the exact providence of these. Were they submitted by cosplayers, and then chosen by Marvel? Or did Marvel handle the photo-shoots themselves? Because it seems weird how many of Marvel's heroes seem to be appearing in people's backyards and creepy alleys, you know?

There are also Kirby Monster variants (which, like the hip-hop variants, are apparently carrying over from last month), design variants and the always-amusing-to-me blank variants.

As for the state of the Marvel Universe come November, it seems noteworthy that The Fantastic Four are apparently no more–perhaps their film bombed so bad it somehow erased them from the Marvel Universe altogether? Well, The Human Torch is mentioned, and will apparently be appearing in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and The Thing is in the cockpit of a spaceship on the cover of Guardians of The Galaxy. I saw no mention of Reed or Sue Richards, however, or of their kids or The Future Foundation. The ASM solicit that Johnny Storm appears in does mention the fact that The Baxter Building is no longer The Baxter Building, so, um, something happens to the FF during the course of Secret Wars, which probably makes sense, given the role Mister Fantastic plaid in its build-up (and that FF villain Doctor Doom is the apparent Big Bad).

The X-Men seemed to have similarly taken a hit during Secret Wars, appearing in just two titles featuring two different teams, and only one spin-off solo series (All-New Wolverine). Likewise, the Avengers line has shrunk dramatically, to just 2-4 titles, depending on whether you want to count The Ultimates and how much you want to count Uncanny Avengers.

Speaking of Secret Wars, a lot of characters from differing realities seem to have stuck around...certainly a lot more than what many of us were expecting (i.e. Miles Morales, and maybe Spider-Gwen). And this month features solicitations for the first round of collections of Secret Wars tie-in series. Oddly, they don't seem to have any real uniformity in their titling. Some have reference to "Battleworld" or "Warzones" in their titles, or "Secret Wars," while others nothing of the sort, and appear to just be random collections of, say, X-Men or Spider-Man comics. I suppose we'll have to wait to see the trade dress to see if Marvel is doing something to visually bind the various Secret Wars collections to one another, and if Marvel is really pushing the trades as standalones or as part of a greater whole (the latter strategy worked extremely well for them with Civil War, I know).

So here's what jumped out at me from Marvel's solicitations for the month of November, which you can read in their entirety here.

Issue #2 – Variant Cover by Oscar Jimenez
The Avengers are dead--long live the Avengers! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes--Captain America, Thor, Vision, and Iron Man--are living separate lives, not tied to any team--but when a threat from beyond the stars targets our world, fate draws them together once more, alongside Nova, Ms. Marvel, and Miles Morales a.k.a. Spider-Man!
Issue #1 - 40 PGS./RATED T+ …$4.99
Issue #2 - 32 PGS./RATED T+ …$3.99

Oof. So they're really going with that for the title then? "All-New, All-Different" isn't just a branding thing, but that's literally the title of this comic book...? It seems like a bit of a mouthful when just plain "Avengers" would do, especially considering that the Avengers line of books has been dramatically reduced post-Notareboot, to just three books–this, New Avengers and Uncanny Avengers (Although Uncanny Avengers is still a book that seems to be operating on a half-Avengers, half-X-Men sort of organizing principle, so maybe there will really only bee two and a half Avengers books post-Secret Wars).

Did we know that Adam Kubert would be involved with this series? And by "we" I mean "I"...? I don't remember knowing that, although it's quite possible I knew it and then forgot it. That seems like a pretty big deal, but Asrar is probably the stronger artist of the two, and the more likely to stay on schedule. If they're going to be double-shipping the book regularly, maybe they need two different pencil artists, but, if that's the case, then I wish they would have found someone more Asrar-like to draw the issues or parts of issues that Asrar can't draw, as those two don't seem to have much in common, stylistically. (Speaking of schedules, if Marvel essentially took a few months off from producing their regular line while Secret Wars was going on, wouldn't that have given their artists a few months of lead time to start getting pages in the can for the post-Secret Wars, "All-New, All-Different" phase...?).

CoverS by BENGAL
X-23 was created to be a weapon and for a time, that’s all she was. But with the help of her mentor, LOGAN—the original WOLVERINE—she escaped that dark past. Tragically, Logan has fallen, but Laura will continue in his footsteps as a hero. Recent events have her doing everything in her power to keep those around her alive, as violent forces are hell-bent on mutual destruction. If anyone can stop them, it’s Laura. She is the best there is at what she does. She is THE ALL-NEW WOLVERINE.
Issue #1 – 40 PGS./Parental Advisory …$4.99
Issue #2 – 32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

The American Library Association's theme for summer reading programs this year was superheroes, so the public library at which I work invited a Cleveland-based comics scholar in to give a presentation on female representation in superhero comics. As he was discussing some of the ebbs and flows of positive and negative representation, he noted the point in time during which Marvel was only publishing a single ongoing monthly devoted to a female superhero, X-23. A character, he noted with some chagrin, who was literally a clone of Wolverine.

It could also be noted that not only was she a clone of Wolverine, but she was a character so lacking in her own identity that she didn't even have a name, but was referred to simply by a number.

Well, now X-23 is going to be the Wolverine, and, well, it's a better codename than either "X-23" or "Laura," I suppose. They may be overstating her Wolverine-ness a bit here, as she's apparently going to be only one of two Wolverines in the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe, as the Unforgiven version of Wolverine from Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Old Man Logan series is going to be in Extraordinary X-Men for some reason. (I should probably note that it is a pleasant surprise to find out that Marvel apparently isn't using Secret Wars to un-do a bunch of storylines like the "death" of Wolverine, who apparently wasn't resurrected in the cosmic rejiggering, but remains "dead").

I'm not crazy about that costume, but then, I don't really like any Wolverine costumes–maybe his black and gray X-Force get-up is my favorite, but, I don't know, he generally looks pretty dumb in costume. I've never liked Laura's claw arrangement, and the fact that she only has two claws on each hand looks especially weird now that she's wearing an old Wolverine costume.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #1 & 2
Variant Cover BY MARK BAGLEY
Hated and feared more than ever, the world is a dangerous place for mutants. As the few remaining X-MEN retreat into seclusion, a handful of mutant teenagers refuse to allow their destiny to be decided for them. CYCLOPS. BEAST. ICEMAN. ANGEL. THE ALL-NEW WOLVERINE. KID APOCALYPSE. OYA. Stepping out of the shadows of their predecessors, the ALL-NEW X-MEN are striking out on their own, determined to write their own futures!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

Okay a couple of things:

1.) Why is this book just called "All-New X-Men," and not "All-New, All-Different X-Men" like All-New, All-Different Avengers...? As is, it's keeping the title of the Bendis-launched series about the original teenage X-Men in the modern Marvel Universe, four-fifths of whom make-up this team (In fact, this seems to be the cast of the existing All-New X-Men book, with a pair of students from the Jean Grey School replacing Professor Kitty Pryde). You know what this means, right? There will in a short time be two trade paperbacks on the shelves labeled All-New X-Men Vol. 1, making it extra-confusing for readers who want to start reading All-New X-Men in trade.

2.) They're not kidding about there being only a "few remaining X-MEN;" this is only the second of two X-Men books, with the other being Extraordinary X-Men, which looks to have a much lamer, Exiles-like team make-up.

3.) The fact that the original X-Men are all still in the present means that not only did Marvel not use the reality rejiggering elements of Secret Wars to put them back in place (which is probably a good thing, as it wouldn't have been dramatically satisfying), but that Brian Michael Bendis never resolved that element of his storyline, which has got to be rather dramatically unsatisfying as well. I guess I'll find out when I get to it in trade; I left off with "The Black Vortex."

4.) The All-New X-Men all have new costumes and looks (again). They look alright, no worse than their last new costumes, I suppose, but I really hate the fire-wings on Angel, which he got during "Black Vortex." Not only does it suggest the most confusing period of Supergirl comics from the Distinguished Competition, but Original Angel was pretty much the ideal X-Men in terms of name, appearance and powers all reinforcing one another.

5.) Having the guy who makes Hip-Hop Family Tree handle the "Hip-Hop Variant Cover" strikes me as a very good idea. They probably should have had Piskor draw all of the covers in that theme/line.

6.) I actually had to look up "Oya" to see if it was Idie's mutant name, as she is almost never, ever referred to as Oya (I just read the last two collections of Wolverine & The X-Men, co-starring Idie and Quentin Quire, too). I'm also surprised to see the name "Kid Apocalypse" used instead of "Genesis," although I imagine that must be Evan/Genesis, also from the pages of Wolverine & The X-Men. "Kid Apocalypse" is probably a more marketable codename, what with the next X-Men movie featuring Apocalypse and all, but it doesn't sound like a name Evan would want to also sounds a little too much like those of his former classmates, Kid Gladiator and Kid Omega (Speaking of the latter, I sorta wish Broo and Quentin were in this line-up as well, particularly since we've repeatedly seen glimpses of the future in which they are future X-Men alongside Idie and Evan).

On Battleworld, the Amazing Spider-Man is a family man! Peter Parker, his wife, Mary Jane, and their daughter must scrape by to make ends meet — but at least they have each other! And Peter will protect his family at all costs — even if it means suiting up once again and taking on the godlike Regent! But Peter isn’t the only one willing to risk all for the family — and his daughter isn’t about to sit back and let dad have all the fun, either! The Parkers take on Regent in the most controversial Spider-Man story of the year! Plus: true tales of romance on Battleworld! Robbie Reyes and Kamala Khan! A Typhoid Mary, Karen Page and Matt Murdock love triangle! And more! When worlds collide, can their love survive? Collecting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #1-5 and SECRET WARS: SECRET LOVE #1.
136 PGS./Rated T …$17 .99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9886-4

Well, I guess this answers my question of if, where and how Marvel would collect Secret Love. I honestly expected most of it to be divvied up into the collections of books featuring the characters, or for the whole one-shot to be collected along with a few other one-shots. I wouldn't have guessed that they might put the whole thing in the back of this ASM collection (which, you'll note, doesn't have any indication in its title that it's part of Secret Wars), as the only thing the stories in Secret Love seem to have in common with Renew Your Vows is that they also deal with relationships between Marvel characters in one form or another.

Here are two of the three covers for November's issue of Doctor Strange. The first appears to be by interior artist Chris Bachalo, and to depict Doc cleaning his fridge out of some sort of Beetlejuicey infestation. The second is a Skottie Young variant; these are so often done in his "Young" style, it's interesting to see him drawing a Marvel superhero as an adult. He's quite good at it, though.

Variant Cover by Ed McGuinness
Drax the Destroyer is the muscle for the Guardians of the Galaxy, but what does he do when he’s not adventuring through space with the Guardians? He lets his bloodthirsty quest for revenge take the pilot seat, of course! Determined to find and kill Thanos once and for all, Drax is ready to take on the universe. But when you’re tooling around the universe in a ship aptly named “The Space Sucker”, an unwavering desire for bloodshed isn’t enough to keep a mission from derailing. Drax crash lands into his wildest adventures ever, encountering foes no one will ever expect! The depths of space may not be big enough to contain this much grit, vengeance and all-out action!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

It is weird that every single member of the Guardians of the Galaxy–even the one who is a tree-man incapable of speech–has their own solo, ongoing title...with the sole exception of Gamorra, the Guardian of the Galaxy who is also a lady?

She doesn't strike me as too terribly interesting a character, being a one-dimensional big, green warrior-type who hates Thanos, but, well, that's Drax's whole thing, isn't it?

On the other hand, maybe CM Punk just really wanted to co-write a Drax title for some reason, and Marvel wasn't inclined to say no to Punk, given that he is something of a celebrity whose name is likely to bring in more readers than, say, the name "Cullen Bunn" or "Dennis Hopeless," and also because he is a big, tough guy that I imagine it is hard to say no to.

Speaking of Punk, don't listen to this solicitation copy; it is lying to you! He isn't making his mighty Marvel debut with Drax #1; he already made his mighty Marvel debut with Thor Annual #1.

Dan Abnett (W) • Luke Ross (A)
Cover by Clay Mann
Variant Cover by Jay Anacleto
“Still going Strong”
The World’s first super hero decides it’s time to get back in the game, protect the innocent, defend the world, and generally remind everyone why he set the mark for heroism in the first place. Make way… Hercules is back! The greatest son of Olympus is thrown into the fight against threats ancient and modern, and Hercules demonstrates that a legend, no matter how strong he is, survives on his experience, and his ability to move with the times. A modern world, an age-old hero… and blockbuster action!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I like Marvel's Hercules a whole lot, but I have to say, this does (almost) nothing at all for me (the reference to Herc as "the world's first super hero" is a nice flourish, though). Abnett isn't a writer I'd expect to see on a Hercules comic, nor is he a writer I'm particularly curious about seeing provide his own take on the character (particularly after some pretty dismal, Lanning-less scripting for DC's Convergence event), but then, I don't suppose it would be an easy task for any writer to take on Hercules after Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's long, creatively (if not financially) successful run on the character.

I wonder about his new costume. After decades–if not centuries–of rocking a skirt, why is The Lion of Olympus suddenly wearing a cod-piece, over a pair of pants...?

Variant Cover BY Paul Pope
“Bad guys win every day… why not us?”
How do the villains of the Marvel Universe live in a world where the sky is constantly filled with heroes? What do they do when they want out of that life? There is no escape. No future. Who saves the villains? The Hood believes he might be that savior. He wants everyone to have a place at the table. Now all he needs to do is build his army… Featuring Titania, Mad Thinker, Thunderball, Black Ant and Enchantress, Illuminati is a tale of villains just trying to survive in the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Strange. For years now Marvel was publishing a comic starring The Illuminati under the title New Avengers, and now they're using the title Illuminati...on a comic not starring any iterations of the Marvel Illuminati, but rather a completely random assortment of villains that I can't even guess at the connection between.

I suppose The Hood was once a member of the "Dark Reign"-era evil Illuminati, called "The Cabal," but that's as close as I can come to guessing about the application of that title to this group of characters. The solicitation copy certainly doesn't seem to suggest that these characters will be functioning as unseen hands controlling or influencing the Marvel Universe or anything.

That's a pretty nice cover by Constantine: The Hellblazer artist Rile Rossmo, and look, there's going to be a Paul Pope cover too...! I like Paul Pope covers. And Paul Pope art in general.

Variant Cover BY TBA
LUNELLA LAFAYETTE is a preteen super genius who wants to change the world—but learned the hard way that it takes MORE than just big brains. Fearful of the monstrous INHUMAN genes inside her, life is turned upside down when a savage, red-scaled tyrant is teleported from prehistoric past to a far-flung future we call TODAY. The pair are many things, and together the most amazing Marvel Team-Up. MARVEL PRESENTS… MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR!
32 PGS./Rated T ...$3.99

I'm all for more dinosaurs in comics, and I imagine I'll be reading this in trade eventually, but, as I noted on Twitter upon the book's announcement, if I were the guys behind Terrible Lizard, the Oni Press comic about a young girl with a strong psychic bond with a Tyrannosaurus Rex from the prehistoric past, I'd probably be pretty irritated that this comic exists. I'm sure it's an innocent case of premise ovelap, but man, Terrible Lizard came out in trade, like, weeks before this was announced.

Of all the hip-hop variant covers, this is the one I'm most interested to see.

G. WILLOW WILSON (w) • Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona (a)
Cover by Cliff Chiang
The internationally-beloved, butt-kicking, smack-talking, most adorable super hero makes her triumphant return. Look out world, Kamala Khan is back and officially an Avenger! Yup, the dream to end all dreams has happened for Kamala. She’s toe to toe with the best of the best, but will being one of Earth’s mightiest heros be everything she imagined? Is being a celebrity hero as wonderful as Kamala has hoped?
Plus: WHO IS THAT WITH BRUNO?? Welcome back, Kamala Korps. We missed you!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

I've been curious about the return of Ms. Marvel, now relaunched with a new #1 for maximum confusification! (Hopefully the collections won't also be renumbered, as this one does pretty well in trade format, and it would be too bad if Marvel's insane insistence on renumbering all their comics with new #1's every couple of months interfered with some readers' attempts to read Ms. Marvel).

Why have I been curious? Well, this was the last Marvel comic not based on a TV cartoon that was still priced at $2.99. I suspected Marvel would use the Secret Wars sabbatical and return with a new #1 as an excuse to raise the price to $3.99, but, well, this is an oversized issue, with a $4.99 price tag, so I guess I'll have to wait until next month to see for sure.


Hey, Ms. Marvel is rated T+...? Is that a typo? It's always seemed like one of the most kid-friendly comics Marvel publishes these days...

Jessica Drew is a private investigator, a super hero and… a mom to be? Since we last saw her, Spider-Woman’s got a whole NEW responsibility -- she’s super heroing for two now, after all! Ben Urich and Porcupine are still along for the adventure, too, and aren’t making Jess’ life any easier – half the time they won’t even let her leave the car! How’s a gal supposed to save innocent people and keep herself out of harm’s way? See how in the mother of all Spider-Stories!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I suppose it should go without saying how frustrating Marvel's random re-numbering of everything to a new #1 just because Secret Wars happened is, huh? I find this new #1 more frustrating even then those for titles like Howard The Duck and Squirrel Girl though simply because they didn't re-number this title when it got a new writer, new artist, new direction and the title character got a new costume, but they are renumbering now for, um, no reason. The only difference between Spider-Woman #1 (this Spider-Woman #1, that is) and Spider-Woman # is that Jessica Drew is now super-pregnant (and disappointingly drawn by the usually very reliable Javier Rodriguez).

James Robinson (W) • Marc Laming (a)
Cover by Mike Deodato
• The only good Nazi is an undead Nazi...
• The Uncanny Avengers take on magic in this supernatural adventure!
• Featuring Deadpool! Doctor Voodoo! Agatha Harkness! And the Emerald Warlock makes his marvel debut!
40 PGS/ RATED T+ ...$4.99

I like how they announce the Emerald Warlock making his "marvel" debut as if that's someone we're supposed to immediately recognize. Almost as much as I like the announcement of Agatha Harkness and Brother Doctor Voodoo in the same excited breath as Deadpool. One of those things is clearly not like the other two.

All of your favorite web-slinging wonders from SPIDER-VERSE, together in one place! It’s high-stakes action when ELECTRO threatens all of reality! From their base on Earth-001, it’s up to SPIDER-GWEN, SPIDER-MAN NOIR, SPIDER-MAN INDIA, SPIDER-UK, SPIDER-HAM and a TON of other surprise spider-guest stars to stop him!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Say, isn't this pretty much the same premise as the Captain Britain Corps, but with Spider-MenPeopleCharacters instead...? Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course; surely readers are much more interested in alternate versions of Spider-Man than they are in alternate version of Captain Britain.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: August 19

Archie #2 (Archie Comics) The second issue of the new Mark Waid/Fiona Staples Archie is a particularly full one, even if Waid's Archie Andrews dials back the speaking-directly-to-the-
reader narration a bit this issue. We get the secret origin of Jughead Jones (well, the origin of his nickname; his hat remains unexplained...for now), the first almost-meeting between Archie and The Lodges (and they're very varying reactions to him), how Betty is coping with being single for the first time in forever and trying to be more of a girly-girl and a substantial exploration of Archie's infamous clumsiness, and the lengths his friends must protect him from it.

This issue lacks the shock of the new that the previous one did, but it's actually quite a bit stronger (I loved the panel of Archie's attempt to work at an ice cream shop). I suspect that may continue to be the case as we meet more characters and their personalities and relationships get more clearly defined.

Bizarro #3 (DC Comics) Superman, The Riddler, Jonah Hex and Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba all make appearances in this issue; the latter two as guest-artists for the apparently regularly appearing splash page of guest art, and Jonah Hex as a guest-star, appear as a ghost bounty hunter of ghost outlaws to help his descendant Chastity Hex, Jimmy Olsen and, of course, Bizarro, as they try to escape an actual Old West ghost town (meaning a town populated by ghosts) alive and un-possessed. This one seemed like a particularly strong issue, with more space devoted to a superhero-like adventure than to any sort of prolonged set-up.

Black Canary #3 (DC) Black Canary's husband shows up and the secret origin of her canary cry and her relationship with Ditto are discussed and, man, I don't know if Brenden Fletcher is referencing events from Birds of Prety or Team 7, but either way, that's not cool: Those are the comics we're trying to forget, man! Great art by Annie Wu and colorist Lee Loughridge, as always, and the book is on it's strongest footing when it's also at it's most shallow: Rock band stuff and fighting, basically. So, um, less plot, more fighting and rocking, I guess...?

Doctor Fate #3 (DC) This book is moving very, very slowly; it's issue three, and still seems like we're in the first third or so of the storyline that began in the first issue. I'd be inclined to drop it and check in on the trade at some point, were Sonny Liew's art not so strong that it makes eve the more mundane aspects seem interesting and worthwhile.

Secret War: Secret Love #1 (Marvel Entertainment) Yeah, I bought a $5 Secret War tie-in. I'm as surprised as you are. All five of the stories in it are awesome, though. I reviewed it at Robot 6 today, if you'd like to read my take on it.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #3 (DC) This month's issue of the Wonder Woman anthology series is completely insane, by which it makes Wonder Woman look an awful lot like a crazy person, which is a roundabout way of saying it is both completely awesome and quite entertaining, even if I suspect some of the ways in which it is so aren't teh ways writer Barbara Randall Kesel intended.

Before discussing the story in any great detail, I should note that it quite gradually dawned on me that the story–or at least Kesel's script–is more meant to be in continuity, while the art is not. That is, the Wonder Woman who appears here is apparently dating Superman, and the Superwoman who appears here is pregnant, but all of the artists involved draw Wonder Woman in her old, pre-New 52 costume.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, given that the stories in this title are generally continuity-lite, but it is a weird thing, and a pretty compelling example of the fact that even when a writer is trying to write in New 52 continuity (with Kesel referencing things from Forever Evil), the artists naturally gravitate toward the more iconic version of Wonder Woman as their default. Four different artists draw Superwoman and Wonder Woman, three different artists drawing a different chapter of the story and Giuseppe Camuncoli drawing the cover, and all four of them draw pre-New 52 Diana.

Anyway, the story. Three girls are running on the beach when a mysterious fourth runner zooms ahead of them all, turns around and runs back to them. It is Wonder Woman, and she immediately puts her hands on the shoulders of the first strange girl and starts lecturing her about how awesome she herself is and how she should continually strive to be the best. The women all get into a conversation about this, with one of them mentioning Wonder Woman's clothing.
No Wonder Woman, that is not the phrase at all. It's slut-shaming you're thinking of. My friend and I discussed this dialogue, and at first I thought maybe they used "slob" so as not to use the word "slut" in a story that is otherwise all-ages (although the comic is rated T, not E), but then a few pages later we see the words "bitch" and "bitchy," which got me thinking over whether "slut" was a worse word than "bitch" or not. "I think you're thinking way too much about this," my friend said, but well, that's what I do here at EDILW. She thought maybe Wondy using that word was meant to reflect her status as a relative newcomer to "Man's World," and still being a bit of a fish out of water.

Regardless, Wonder Woman's answer is awesome.
Look at her pose! I'm pretty sure Wonder Woman wants to fight that girl's mom.
Good answer, Wonder Woman. You know who you should tell that too, though?

This lady:
Interestingly, in an advertorial explaining his decision to have Diana put a full bodysuit on under her bathing suit, and a skirt, armor and knife-gauntlets on over it, David Finch cited his wife and Wonder Woman writer Meredith Finch saying pretty much the same thing as Nancy's mom there.

When Wonder Woman says she's the best, Superwoman lands on top of her like a meteor to challenge that assumption, and Wonder Woman and her evil opposite from Earth-3 beat on one another in front of the three girls, who function as a sort of Greek Themyscrian chorus.

Interestingly, just a few pages after using the word "slob-shaming" when Nancy tells Wonder Woman what her mom thinks of fighting in a bathing suit, Wonder Woman literally slut-shames Superwoman:
And, despite the fact that Superwoman repeatedly mentions the fact that she's pregnant, neither she nor Wonder Woman seem all that concerned with the health of the baby, with Wonder Woman ultimately strangling Superwoman into unconsciousness:
I'll be the first to admit I know even less about super-wombs than I do regular wombs, but that struck me as a little weird...especially when Kesel could have just not mentioned the pregnancy at all.

The art is strong for two-thirds of the story. The first two chapters are by Irene Koh (who drew the first three panels I posted above) and Emma Viegeli (who drew the fourth image). While there are pretty obvious differences between the work of the two artists, with the latter using black lines to outline the figures, making them sharper and more distinct than the softer, more illustrator-like look of Koh's chapter, they are sticking to pretty similar designs.

The third chapter, by Laura Braga, is more in keeping with the design of the cover, as Wonder Woman and Superwoman's costumes suddenly shrink about ten sizes, and they get slimmer and more buxom (Braga draws Wondy's tiara much larger than the other two do, though).

Overall, it's a pretty fun and funny story, and one that manages to discuss aspects of the Wonder Woman character in a direct, almost pedantic way, while also demonstrating aspects within the story, and meeting the required superhero violence quotient. I don't know that I'd say this was one of the better Sensation stories of late, but it was certainly one of my favorites in a while.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

DC's November previews reviewed

DC has two huge Batman-related projects scheduled for November, with a member of the All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder creative team attached to each: Jim Lee drawing parts of Batman: Europa and Frank Miller co-writing Dark Knight III (can they call it that, even though the previous ones were entitled Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and thus there were no Dark Knight I and Dark Knight II...?).

I think I speak for every single person in the world when I say that what we would all prefer is for Miller and Lee to quit screwing around with that stuff and get back to finishing All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder.

There is, as is always the case now, a theme for this month's variant covers, but I discussed that at length in the previous post. To see the complete, Caleb's commentary-free solicitations, you can click here; otherwise, read on...

Written by GARTH ENNIS
On sale NOVEMBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, 6 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Sixpack travels to the ends of the earth in his search for answers, but Dogwelder has already come face-to-face with his own past. The awful truth about Section Eight begins to dawn on our ragged little band—but just when things are at their bleakest, a hero appears with exactly the solution they’re looking for. Not a minute too soon, as the long-awaited threat finally appears in Gotham City!

As you can see, the cover for the final issue of All-Star Section Eight features an image of Sixpack attempting to drink the Bottle City of Kandor. This is the sort of thing that used to be accompanied by a cover blurb stating "It had to happen!"

Hey, it's Spoiler! I just thought I would point out that Spoiler is going to be in November's issue of Batgirl. If only there was some sort of phrase I could use when I wanted to alert someone of the presence of Spoiler...


Anyway, while former Batgirl (in the pre-New 52 continuity) Stephanie Brown has already met current Batgirl in the pages of the recent Batgirl Annual, this time regular Batgirl artist Babs Tarr will be drawing the meeting, so that's something to look forward to.

Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
On sale NOVEMBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The new Batman weekly powers into its second month—and goes international! Batman’s greatest secret has torn the Robins apart, sending them on different missions around the world. What is the significance of the case Batman and Robin worked five years ago in Prague? What will Jason Todd and Tim Drake find on the island of vice that is Gamorra? And can Harper Row get through the wall Cassandra Cain has built around herself?

The solicitation copy for all four issues of Batman and Robin Eternal that are shipping in November is the same; the other art teams are Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea and Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez.

I don't really have anything new to say here. I'm still tentatively looking forward to the series, and while I hope it will be at least as good (and hopefully better) than Batman Eternal, I have a few concerns. I'm not exactly thrilled about the fact that Dick, Jason and Tim are seemingly the focus, given how goofy Dick's current status quo is (Grayson is good, but the premise regarding Dick Grayson being outted as Nightwing and no one other than Lex Luthor figuring out that Bruce Wayne is just mind-boggling, and I'm not crazy about the faked-death aspect, either). And I've never liked Jason Todd post-resurrection. And while I like Tim Drake a lot, I can't stand that costume, which it doesn't look like he'll be changing out of as of November of this year. And I wonder where the current Robin is.

On the other hand, I'm kinda sorta looking forward to the new iteration of Cassandra Cain, if only because I liked the original iteration so much.

Art and cover by JIM LEE
RESOLICIT • On sale NOVEMBER 18 • 40 pg, FC, 1 of 4, $4.99 US • RATED T+
Superstar artist Jim Lee returns to the Dark Knight with this premiere issue! The impossible has happened and Batman is on the verge of being taken down by an enemy he cannot defeat: a virus for which there is no cure! And the only hope for his salvation is The Joker! Who infected Batman, what does the Clown Prince of Crime know, and how will the Dark Knight get that information? Together, the enemies crisscross Europe, desperate to find answers before time runs out.

Co-conceived by Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello, this 4-issue miniseries event will feature art by top talents over layouts by the incomparable Giuseppe Camuncoli (HELLBLAZER, Dark Wolverine), with the first issue pencilled and inked by none other than Jim Lee!

It has been so long since DC first talked about this project publicly that I can't even tell you off the top of my head how long it's been. Certainly long enough that I forgot all about it.

I'm sure it will do well for the publisher though, as JIM LEE + BATMAN is almost always winning arithmetic for them, even if neither Lee nor Batman are necessarily as popular on their own as they are when they're together.

The fact that DC has been using The Joker so much more sparingly since the New 52-boot (coupled with the fact that Batman himself is temporarily MIA from the Batman line of comics) should also make this book a bit more appealing to some fans than it might otherwise be.

The Batman vs. Virus plot sounds a little too familiar to me, as I still have pretty clear memories of the "Legacy" and "Contagion" crossover storylines from the Bat-books, but I'm intrigued by the Batman/Joker team-up aspect. I hope The Joker is along for the ride based on some particular scientific knowledge he knows, and not just in a Hannibal Lector-like capacity; one of the few areas of The Joker character that has long been under-explored, at least to my knowledge, is the idea of The Joker as a brilliant chemist who invented a particularly insidious type of chemical weapon in his Joker Gas/Joker Venom (Did Scott Snyder explore that in "Endgame"...? I haven't read "Endgame" yet; I read Batman in trade, so I'm generally about one story arc behind at all times).

Speaking of not remember things, I can't remember the last time I saw Cary Nord art anywhere. That's his cover for Batman/Superman #26, which apparently involves Superman teaming up with Batgirl to fight Vandal Savage. I really like Nord's Batgirl.

Written by MATT WAGNER
Art and cover by MATT WAGNER
On sale JANUARY 13 • 208 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875”, $29.99 US
Matt Wagner’s 3-issue epic that unites DC’s three greatest heroes is offered as a Deluxe Edition hardcover for the first time! When Ra’s al Ghul recruits Bizarro and a renegade Amazon warrior to help him create global chaos, the Dark Knight Detective suddenly finds himself working with the Man of Steel and the Amazon Princess. Looking to thwart the madman’s plot to simultaneously destroy all satellite communications as well as all of the world’s oil reserves, Earth’s greatest heroes are forced to band together—if they can work out their differences!

This is very good, in case you're wondering. The price-point seems a little on the high side–I suspect you can find the three prestige-format issues that comprised this series in back-issue bins for much less than $30, if you wanted to put some effort into it–but I imagine you're paying for the "DELUXE EDITION" format to a certain degree.

If I'm remembering correctly, this is essentially a Ra's al Ghul vs. The Trinity story, with Ra's emplying henchmen or lieutenants specific to Superman and Wonder Woman.

I think this may also have been one of the first uses of the term "Trinity" to describe the "World's Finest" + Wonder Woman team, and one of the earlier attempts at a story set in the past that treated DC's premier heroes as a trio rather than a duo.

On sale DECEMBER 16 • 160 pg, FC, $16.99 US
In this tale of horror co-written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, Bruce Wayne unintentionally unleashes a dark evil on his city. Includes appearances by The Penguin, The Demon, Man-Bat, Ra’s al Ghul and more! Collects BATMAN: THE DOOM THAT CAME TO GOTHAM #1-3.

Here's another three-part prestige-format Batman series I didn't expect to see collected in trade format this month. I recall liking this one an awful lot too, although I'm bleary on the specifics. If I'm recalling correctly, it's a Lovecraft pastiche, reimagining Batman and related characters into a late 19th century version of Gotham. Lots of great art, from the covers to the interiors, with some rather inspired redesigns.

Art and cover by ANNIE WU
LOONEY TUNES variant cover by PIA GUERRA and Warner Bros. Animation
On sale NOVEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The secret of who assembled this pack of misfits into the band that became Black Canary is revealed—and the answer is stranger than you’d ever dream! There’s a higher purpose to dropping Ditto into Dinah’s life, but will they both survive the mission they’re meant to complete?

I really like the way Annie Wu costumes Dinah, in that she costumes her, rather than just drawing her in the same clothes all the time. Because there are slight differences in her outfits each cover and/or issue, Wu's Black Canary has a style, rather than simply having a superhero uniform.

Wrong universe, Deathlok.

Cover by ANT LUCIA
On sale NOVEMBER 11 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST
Shipping twice in November! In a London hospital, a strange patient has a message for Dr. Harleen Quinzel…one that leads the doctor to hijack a plane out of the city! And, Supergirl and Stargirl lead a bombing raid, only to discover a terrible secret that leaves them questioning their loyalties. Plus, Batwoman arrives in Italy where she encounters Contessa Selina Digatti—a.k.a. the Catwoman!

Cover by ANT LUCIA
On sale NOVEMBER 25 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST
Shipping twice in November! While Wonder Woman leads an American infantry division in an attack on an Axis battalion, Harley makes a none-too-graceful landing in France, where she encounters a woman with a strange affinity for plants. Plus, Supergirl and Stargirl fly home to protect their parents, only to be attacked by a fearsome forest spirit known as the Swamp Thing.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am to see names other than Marguerite Sauvage's under the "Art by" credit for these issues, given what a huge role her art played in making the first issue so enjoyable. Hopefully the other three artists are as good as (or at least not much worse than) Sauvage.

I'm intrigued by the mention of Swamp Thing in the copy for the fifth issue. I'm hoping that means we'll see Swampy in skimpy, WWII-era pin-up clothing, but I imagine he'll look pretty much like he does today. From what I understand, muck monster fashion hasn't changed much over the decades

DC Comics is proud to present the debut issue of DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE, one of the most ambitious projects ever from a major American comics publisher. Here are the details...
Each issue of DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE will include:
• A 32-page standard format comic book that will measure 6.625” x 10.1875”
• A 16-page minicomic with no interior ads that will measure 5.5” x 8.375”
The minicomic will be tipped on to an insert and bound into the main comic.
After the release of each issue of DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE, DC Entertainment will release a volume of the DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE COLLECTOR’S EDITION that will collect the both the main story and mini-comic from latest issue of DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE as a single 7.0625” x 10.875” title, with both stories presented at the same trim size.
After the first seven DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE COLLECTOR’S EDITION have been published, DC Entertainment will ship a special slipcase designed to hold the entire set with the eighth COLLECTOR’S EDITION.
DKIII also will feature a dazzling array of variant covers by some of the biggest names in comics today. And, for the first time ever, DC will offer custom store variant editions to qualifying retailers. Watch for more information coming soon!

Mini comic art by TBA
1:10 variant cover by KLAUS JANSON
1:25 variant cover by ANDY KUBERT and KLAUS JANSON
1:50 variant cover by TBA
1:100 variant cover by FRANK MILLER
1:500 variant cover by JIM LEE
1:5000 original sketch variant by JIM LEE
Blank variant cover
On sale NOVEMBER 25
32 pg comic: 6.375” x 10.1875”
16 page minicomic: 5.5” x 8.5”
FC, 1 of 8, $5.99 US • RATED T+
Retailers: This issue will ship with multiple covers. Please see the order form for more information.
The epic ending you never saw coming is here because you demanded it! The Dark Knight rises again to face the dawn of the master race!

DC had previously announced this book's existence, but I was still sort of surprised to see it listed here, probably because of the listing itself. I've read the solicitation copy over a few times now, and I'm afraid I still don't quite understand what the hell they're selling here, or at least how they're selling it.

That said, it's Frank Miller and Batman, so it oughta do quite well for DC.

Personally, I'm uncomfortable with the way this is being branded as a Frank Miller Dark Knight project, despite the fact that Miller is reduced from his original, auteur-like status as the writer and pencil artist to simply a co-writer. I imagine that is to help get the book out as fast as possible, but I wonder if Miller's recent output like Dark Knight Strikes Again, All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder (both of which were awesome, although not received too terribly well by the expected fan base) and Holy Terror (a well-drawn, but legitimately terrible comic book), not to mention that bizarre anti-Occupy Wall Street screed, isn't part of the reason a reliable, company man writer like Brian Azzarello is co-writing.

Is Azzarello there to dilute Miller's impulses, or to ensure that Miller writes more like Frank Miller circa 1987 than Frank Miller circa 2011...?

Regardless, I for one find the prospect of a Frank Miller Batman comic book that Miller doesn't draw and only half-writes a hell of a lot less exciting than a Frank Miller Batman comic book by Frank Miller. (I am curious to see Kubert drawing what looks, at least based on the very scant evidence so far provided, in a Miller-inspired style, and inked by Janson as well).

[Speaking of Miller, he would have been a pretty good candidate for redesigning the DC Universe in 2011; I know a lot of folks weren't crazy about his designs in Dark Knight Strikes Again, but I really liked his take on Supergirl and Flash's costumes, and even his Wonder Woman costume had some interesting elements that could have been made to certainly works better than either of her New 52 costumes.]

Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art by JOHN McCREA and others
Cover by JOHN McCREA
On sale DECEMBER 23 • 296 pg, FC, $19.99 US
Garth Ennis’s tales of The Demon are collected for the first time! In these dark, fast-paced tales, Etrigan the Demon battles the Gothodaemon, the demon of Gotham City, with the help of Hitman. Then, a company of German soldiers from World War II are resurrected to capture an army base—and it’s up to the Demon and the crew of the Haunted Tank to send them back to their graves. Collected from THE DEMON #40 and 42-49, plus ANNUAL #2.

Buy this. It's good.

 If it includes the entire run, and it certainly seems to, then it features the first appearances of Tommy Monaghan and his love interest in Hitman (back before she made detective), a revival of Bat-villains The Tweedles and a revival of The Haunted Tank (as is explicitly stated in the solicitation copy).

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
LOONEY TUNES variant cover by BEN CALDWELL and Warner Bros. Animation
On sale NOVEMBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
For the first time since taking on the mantle of Batman, Jim Gordon has left Gotham City. But he’s not alone! Recruited by the Justice League, Gordon taps into his detective skills to help Superman, Wonder Woman, and the World’s Greatest Heroes solve the murder of a mysterious, super-powered being.

Well, for the first time since the current story arc in Batman/Superman, in which Gordon travels to Metropolis to investigate Clark Kent/Superman, anyway...

I'm a little shocked that Doctor Fate isn't one of the titles with a Looney Tunes cover, given the obviousness of a gag involving the character and Bugs Bunny's catchphrase.

That, however, is a pretty great cover by artist Sonny Liew.

Cover by PHIL HALE
On sale DECEMBER 9 • 192 pg, FC, $16.99 US • MATURE READERS
The first eight issues of Vertigo’s quirky, star-studded horror anthology is collected for the first time! These stories spotlight a small-town cult, a violent gang of senior citizens, the deadly results of creating a home-made rocket pack, and much more.

I read this Vertigo horror anthology series when it was published serially, and remembered generally liking it quite a bit. As you can tell by the names above, they went out of their way to get some pretty big name talents, almost certainly including a few of your favorites.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
On sale NOVEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
“Darkseid War” rages on! The Justice League has become Gods! Grail discovers a truth about Wonder Woman that disturbs even her! And a shocking secret about the fate of the Anti-Monitor will force the League to seek out new and unlikely allies!

The third chapter of this storyline comes out this week, and it will still be going on in November? And that, remember, is after a month of special tie-ins featuring various characters.

Manapul's cover sure looks nice; it's too bad the insides haven't looked as good as that cover does.

Written by TOM KING
On sale NOVEMBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and the Omega Men—captured at last! Now, these alleged terrorists are about to be processed and jailed with all the dignity and rights afforded them by benevolent Citadel law.

Nice cover. This, Constantine and Midnighter have been maybe the three biggest surprises of DC's "DC You" initiative. In all three cases, they were characters and titles that I had between little and no interest in, and all three have turned out to be surprisingly good. I'm not sure where they're all going, and if they'll remain of the relatively high quality they've been sustaining over the course of their first couple of issues (Omega Men's storyline in particular is still unfolding), but those are three I'd recommend checking out at some point if you're casting about for DC titles to try.

On sale NOVEMBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Roy and Jason have been through a lot with their new start-up business, and a therapy session to vent a few grievances seems like just what the doctor ordered. Too bad Sera Phina and her team of villains are finally assembled and ready to launch their attack!

Sera Phina. Man. I don't know whether to curse or congratulate Lobdell for that character name.

Finally, the Scooby-Doo vs. The Spectre story I never knew I wanted!

Written by GAIL SIMONE
Art and cover by DALE EAGLESHAM
On sale NOVEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
As monstrous giant beings from beyond the stars pound at the gates of reality, the Secret Six reluctantly race around the globe (with their guide, the demon ETRIGAN) as they attempt to prevent a horrifying fate for all mankind. Guest stars galore as the balance of power in the DCU rests solely in the hands of teenager Lori Zechlin, a.k.a. Black Alice!

Given recent revelations, I'm curious to see how Secret Six sustains itself, and what direction it goes in. The inclusion of Etrigan would have excited me pre-New 52, but man, I can't cotton the chainmail version of Etrigan (Please refer to the cover of The Demon collection above for John McCrea's particularly creepy, cartoony version of the character, which I rather like...especially the way McCrea handles his cape.)

Written by JOHN OSTRANDER and others
On sale DECEMBER 9 • 272 pg, FC, $19.99 US
In this title collecting SUICIDE SQUAD #9-16, JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #13 and DOOM PATROL/SUICIDE SQUAD SPECIAL #1, the team must take down the island headquarters of a drug cartel that’s more than it seems. Then, the squad and the Justice League both try to infiltrate a Russian prison.

Regardless of is eventual quality, I think the Suicide Squad movie will have been well worth doing if it results in DC finally collecting John Ostrander and company's entire run on Suicide Squad. The current situation is kind of dismal, as when people ask for Suicide Squad comics, there are plenty of collections of the bad Suicide Squad comics, but (almost) no collections of the good Suicide Squad run.

I work in a library, not a comic shop, but I've had a few people ask about Suicide Squad graphic novels, and I was depressed on the inside, knowing what they were going to end up reading.

Written by MAX LANDIS
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale NOVEMBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 7, $3.99 US • RATED T+
Hollywood screenwriter and Eisner Award nominee Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN) joins forces with top comics artists including Jock, Francis Manapul and Jae Lee to bring you SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN, a 7-issue miniseries chronicling the life of Clark Kent and his development into the archetypal hero he will eventually become. But these are not the stories of the iconic “Superman” as you know him, but of the soft-spoken, charming, often-funny Kansas farm-boy behind the Man of Steel. With the tone of each issue ranging from heartwarming and simple, to frighteningly gritty and violent, to sexy, sun-kissed and funny, SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

In this first issue, superstar artist Nick Dragotta (East of West, Fantastic Four) illustrates the story of Jonathan and Martha Kent as they struggle to deal with their 12-year-old son’s latest quirk—he’s been floating up into the air, sometimes hundreds of feet!

I don't have any jokes or sarcastic remarks here, I just wanted to pull this one out to note it looks interesting, and how interesting will likely depend on who the other "top comics artists" aside from those named are.

I suppose it will also be interesting to see if this series ends up being in continuity, since, as far as I know, Superman's childhood (and life in Smallville in general) has been fairly unexplored since The New 52-boot, which tinkered with the previous iteration of his origin (his parents both died before he became Superman this time around).